Archive for Thursday, February 20, 2014

Opinion: Economy is top U.S. priority

February 20, 2014


By Gene Budig and Alan Heaps

Happy birthday, George, and happy birthday, Abe. While we’re at it, happy birthday to the two other presidents born in February: William Henry Harrison and Ronald Reagan.

We owe all four a debt of gratitude. Being president has to be one of the toughest jobs ever created. The pressure is enormous and the consequences of their actions felt around the world. 

But the fact is that presidents are neither drafted nor forced to take the position. They work hard and long for the honor. Only 44 people have ever held the office. 

Presidents must be held to a very high standard and that is why we have a lengthy and arduous selection process.  Just look ahead to 2016. Even though the election is almost two years down the road, the campaigns are underway. Candidates and parties are already publicly and privately jockeying for position. 

Such a long run-up almost certainly leads to voter fatigue.  But there is an advantage to these lengthy campaigns: They allow voters to study and think carefully about the characteristics and agenda we want from our next leader.  And, in a time when the federal government has ground to a halt, when politicians and the public are badly divided on many major policy issues, leadership has seldom been at a greater premium.

Historians have studied what makes a great president, a body of work that has been supplemented by public opinion polls. While there is no consensus on the issue, the following list includes several of the commonly identified qualities. 

l A compelling vision for the nation and the world.

l The skills to achieve that vision by communicating, listening, and cooperating.

l A limited but impactful agenda.

l The courage to do the right thing even if unpopular.

l A respect for history (understanding the long-term consequences of decisions).

l Honesty and integrity.

All of these components are important. But the foundation for presidential success is the compelling vision. And that vision is not created in a vacuum. It must be solidly based on the needs of the people. And the polls in this area are unanimous: The No. 1 priority is strengthening our economy.

America needs a president who has a vision and workable plan to restore our nation’s economic vitality. This plan cannot be limited to the short term. This plan cannot be focused on any one generation. This plan cannot be focused on any one class. This plan cannot be focused on any one strategy. Employment, a living wage, tax reform, infrastructure, education, economic mobility, fairness, and ample rewards for innovation, hard work and good work all have to be part of the vision.  

America has the right to expect great leaders. We have had great leaders in the past. Last year, journalist and statistician Nate Silver created a composite list of previous presidential rankings. Topping the list were Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson.  Very few would argue about the extraordinary quality of service they gave to their country.

But great leaders are not limited to the distant past. We have had great leaders in the modern era. While it is too early to accurately judge our most recent presidents, consider Truman (with his vision of a reconstructed world following the devastation of WWII), Eisenhower (with his vision of a safe and prosperous America), Kennedy (with his vision of an egalitarian world led by a vigorous America), Johnson (with his vision of a nation where poverty had been eradicated) and Reagan (with his vision of a small but effective government).

No one person can have all the attributes we want in a leader. But we can work hard to ensure that the presidential candidates in 2016 have those we really need. Let’s use the coming months not only to listen to the candidates and their messages, but also to communicate with them about what we the people value, what we the people believe most important, what we the people will vote for and support.

— Gene Budig is a former chancellor of Kansas University and former president of Major League Baseball’s American League. Alan Heaps is a former vice resident of the College Board in New York City.


Richard Heckler 4 years, 3 months ago

Reagan was all about big government and big government debt plus a little Iran Contra and some Savings and Loan/home loan scams..... sure enough. Supply Side economics cannot live without big debt. Reagan/Bush presided over big debt,millions of job losses and the economy going to hell.

Bush/Cheney had to add some wood to the fire regarding killing economies.

Editor's note: Nearly five years ago, on Sept. 15, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filed for Chapter 11, the largest bankruptcy in the nation’s history. The move set off a series of dramatic actions in Washington, D.C., and on Wall Street as bankers and regulators sought to avoid a shutdown of the global economy. To mark the anniversary, the Center for Public Integrity is publishing a three-part series on what has happened since the meltdown.

Five years after the near-collapse of the nation’s financial system, the economy continues a slow recovery marred by high unemployment, hesitant consumers and sluggish business investment.

Many of the top Wall Street bankers who were largely responsible for the disaster — and whose companies either collapsed or accepted billions in government bailouts — are also unemployed. But since they walked away from the disaster with millions, they’re juggling their ample free time between mansions and golf, skiing and tennis.

Meantime, the major banks that survived the crisis, largely because they were saved with taxpayer money after being deemed “too big to fail,” are now bigger and more powerful than ever.

The Center for Public Integrity looked at what happened to five former Wall Street kingpins to see what they are up to these days. None are in jail, nor are any criminal charges expected to be filed.

Certainly none are hurting for money..... for example:

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